India-Pakistan: Terrorizing The Truthers

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June 2, 2011: May was a very bad month for the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment. First there was the death of Osama bin Laden, caught while living among Pakistani military officers. Then, as part of the revenge attacks for bin Laden's death, half a dozen terrorists got into a major naval base, killed twenty people, destroyed three aircraft (including two of four very expensive P-3Cs). Two of the attackers then managed to escape the hundreds of armed navy and police personnel who rushed to the scene of the violence. The final indignity was the collapse of public support for the military, and vicious media attacks. For decades, the military had succeeded in convincing most Pakistanis that the country was in constant danger of Indian invasion, and (since the 1970s, when the generals got religion) that all non-Moslem nations were hostile to Pakistan. Bizarre (to Westerners, and Indians) conspiracy theories were accepted as fact (as in the September 11, 2001 attacks were an Israeli or a CIA operation). But reality is relentless. After September 11, 2001, Pakistan was quietly told by the United States that they could either be for, or against, the Islamic terrorists. If they stood by their Islamic radical fantasies (which had led to the creation of the Taliban in the first place), then they were at war with America. Otherwise, they were at war with Islamic terrorism. The Pakistani leadership, many of whom knew that the fantasies were, well, politically useful myths, chose life and national survival. But that did not change the attitudes of many military personnel, or Pakistanis in general. Many of these Pakistanis understood that siding with America was a matter of national survival, but they still believed America was an enemy. Lies repeated often enough, and long enough, do not go away very quickly. Right now, many educated, and often quite powerful (in the military, government, business or academia) Pakistanis openly insist that the war on terror is part of a Western plot (led by America and Israel) to destroy Islam, and specifically Pakistan. Journalists who point out the flaws in these beliefs are threatened, and if they don't shut up, are being killed. The idea the Pakistan is not the cause of Islamic terrorism, but the victim of it, and American efforts to defeat the terrorists, is still very common, and those who oppose this attitude face violence is they persist.

Many Pakistanis are hoping that China will step up and provide the billions of dollars of annual aid, and access to high-tech weapons, that America now takes care of. So far, China is only willing to declare Pakistan a close ally, and sell Pakistan pretty good weapons. But no big subsidies, or obligation to assist Pakistan in any military confrontation with America.

June 1, 2011: In northwestern Pakistan, some 200 gunmen crossed the border from Afghanistan and attacked a border post, leaving 23 policemen and 35 attackers dead. This was apparently another revenge attack for the death of Osama bin Laden. But attacks like this are also part of a long term terror campaign against pro-government tribes in the tribal territories. There, the pro and anti Taliban factions have been fighting it out for over a decade. There are clashes and casualties daily. The animosities are partly generational (ambitious young guys want to take over), partly ideological (secular versus religious solutions). This was made possible when the army moved into the tribal territories last year. This gave the older leaders (the "tribal elders") support, because the more dynamic and fanatic Taliban leaders successfully used terrorism and sheer audacity to intimidate the more numerous moderate tribesmen.

Senior Pakistani officers are telling people that the government has acceded to American demands, and will soon launch the much delayed attack on North Waziristan. This action has been much debated by the generals (who oppose it) and the politicians (who have ordered it). Three months ago, it appeared that the army was going to invade this, the last Islamic terrorist sanctuary in the tribal territories. Back then, there were extensive preparations to house half a million civilian refugees expected to flee the fighting. The UN was asked to mobilize their resources to help handle the refugees. There are currently 147,000 troops in the tribal territories, and nearly 40,000 surrounding North Waziristan (an area of 4,700 square kilometers, with 365,000 people). North Waziristan has been surrounded since late 2009, but Pakistani generals have refused to go in and take down this terrorist refuge. But the politicians were under growing pressure to do something about the continued terror attacks by what the Pakistanis call "bad Taliban". These are mostly Pakistani Taliban who want to establish a religious dictatorship in Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban, who want to establish a similar government in Afghanistan, but not Pakistan, are considered "good Taliban" (along with the minority of Pakistani Taliban who don't want to overthrow the government.) In the last year, the Pakistani Taliban have also caused hundreds of casualties among pro-government tribesmen, and it's no secret that the army hires tribesmen and puts them in dangerous situations to minimize army casualties. The army cannot afford to lose the support of the loyal tribes up there. All this has put pressure on the army to eliminate the refuge the killers can flee to in North Waziristan.  Now, once more, because of the demands of Pakistani and American politicians, the Pakistani generals say they will give the order to advance into North Waziristan. But it hasn't happened yet, and there is the risk that the generals will stage another coup, and risk a dangerous (very dangerous) confrontation with the West. But there's a more likely outcome to all this. It's believed that the army will try to avoid doing too much damage to their terrorist friends in North Waziristan, and just go after a few towns known to be terrorist hangouts. In other words, the army will put on a show, and hope that the intended audience (the United States) approves. Bad reviews will be bad news indeed. The bad news is already in play, as the advance publicity given to this operation, including details (in the Pakistani media) of which Pakistani brigade will go where, gives the terrorist groups plenty of time to get out of the way.

The Indian campaign, against Maoist rebels in rural areas of eastern India, is not going well. But progress is being made. The Maoists have proved difficult to find and kill or capture, but not so their camps. The influx of special police units has put many Maoists units on the run, and forced these leftist rebels to spend most of their time building new camps and arranging new supply lines. Even Maoists have to eat, and have a place to sleep. Another benefit of the anti-Maoist campaign is a sharp drop in deaths among security forces and civilians. Last year, over 600 civilians died from Maoist related violence, this year it's running at about a third that number. Deaths among security forces are down nearly as much. Deaths among the Maoists are about the same as they were last year.

May 30, 2011: Pakistani media began announcing that the army was going to finally invade the terrorist sanctuary of North Waziristan.

May 27, 2011: The senior American military commander (the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) came to Pakistan and, along with the U.S. Secretary of State,  delivered an ultimatum about Pakistani obligations to deal with Islamic terrorists in their midst. The details of these discussions, and the ultimatum, were not made public. There was a press release about the meeting, which was not described threatening or acrimonious. What the Pakistani generals have been more vocal about is finding and expelling pro-Islamic terrorists in their midst. Many recent terror attacks, including many that killed military personnel, were carried out with the cooperation of pro-terrorist soldiers and sailors. The generals have long tried to ignore this issue (at least publicly), and tried to deal with it quietly. But the bin Laden episode, and then the embarrassing attack on a naval base, has forced the issue, and the obvious solution, into the spotlight.

May 26, 2011: The Pakistani military has made a big deal about ordering American military personnel in Pakistan to be withdrawn. The United States is said to be preparing a response. Many Pakistanis are angry at the United States for secretly (without telling Pakistan) coming into Pakistan to get Osama bin Laden. American accusations, that Pakistani military and intelligence officials must have known about, and approved, bin Laden's presence, are generally ignored in Pakistan as besides the point.   

 

 

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